June 15, 2004 | General

Clarence Golueke Compost Researcher, Educator

BioCycle June 2004, Vol. 45, No. 6, p. 4

CLARENCE GOLUEKE – who died May 23, 2004 at age 93 – was internationally recognized for his research contributions to the science of composting and his work in the entire spectrum of solid waste management. To those of us who had the joy of knowing him personally, we will always treasure his wonderful qualities as a human being. Clarence had an enormous role in the launch and development of this publication right from its beginning in 1960. He also served as the initial editor of Compost Science & Utilization when it was founded in 1992.
Clarence grew up in the cold, blustery town of Marinette, Wisconsin – which made him and his wife Dolores thoroughly appreciative of the warmer climate of California. His undergraduate studies were at the University of St. Louis, where he earned a double degree in zoology and philosophy, went on to Illinois for a Masters in microbiology, and then to Berkeley for his Ph.D. For a short time, he worked as an instructor in microbiology and bacteriology at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois and Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Soon he was back in Berkeley as a research biologist in the Sanitary Engineering Research Laboratory (SERL) in Richmond, California where he remained until retirement. It was at SERL where we first met Clarence in 1959.
In 1989, BioCycle published a special report honoring Dr. Golueke and his 40 years of compost research. As part of that report, his former student and long-time colleague at CalRecovery, Inc. – Luis Diaz – wrote a piece titled, “Combining Experience with Common Sense” which included these recollections: “During his 26-year tenure at the University, he worked on a variety of projects and taught a number of students. Although he is recognized nationally and internationally as one of the first scientists to apply composting in the field of waste management, his work in waste management encompassed a broad spectrum.”
“Golueke worked with Dr. William Oswald in the development of algal systems for the treatment of liquid wastes. Projects in this area included the development of oxidation ponds for wastewater treatment and the evaluation of algae harvesting techniques for protein production. Anaerobic digestion of the algae also was assessed for methane yield. As early as the 1960s, Golueke and Oswald explored the potential of integrating food production with waste treatment and energy generation.”
According to Luis Diaz, while at the University, Golueke helped to shape the lives of his students “unselfishly devoting as much time to the sophomore as he did to the Ph.D. student, spending numbers of hours rewriting and commenting on papers and theses – also advising students on research as well as everyday problems.”
In that same special report, author Gene Logsdon profiled the full range of Clarence’s interests beyond his professional career – from gardening and hunting wildflowers to bread-baking and power-walking: “Of all the people this writer has interviewed, he comes closest to being the total renaissance man.”
Logsdon closed his profile by referring to Clarence Golueke as a classic philosopher above all, citing his words: “One of the more regretful trends I see in modern society is our current retreat from reason into emotionalism as a way out of problems. We are raising up generations who want to rely on their feelings rather than their intellects – that can only lead to social chaos. Such people are also susceptible to all sorts of ridiculous advertising propaganda and pseudoscientific theories. If I’m remembered at all, I hope it is as the person who took the witchcraft out of composting and replaced it with rationality.”
Clarence Golueke will be remembered for posessing remarkable qualities – from his gentle nature and wonderful sense of humor to all of his great scientific knowledge and ability to communicate that knowledge. Knowing him has been a real privilege. – J.G.

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